AMQF and Sweden discuss VAFF’s most recent achievements during 4th annual meeting
On Thursday 14 October 2021 at its headquarters in Ramallah, the A.M. Qattan Foundation (AMQF) organised the 4th annual meeting with the government of Sweden, funder of the Visual Arts: A Flourishing Field (VAFF) project. The meeting was attended by Maria Ardaji, Head of Programmes at the Consulate General of Sweden; Fida Touma, General Director of AMQF; Mahmoud Abu Hashhash, Director of the Culture and Arts Programme; Yara Odeh, VAFF Project Manager; Tarteel Muammar, VAFF Assistant Coordinator; and Awni Wahbeh, VAFF Accountant.
Ardaji briefed the participants on recent changes in the consulate’s team since the summer. She also noted that the team is currently waiting on evaluations by partners and projects to map future interventions in the cultural sector. The team will also review a study on culture that was published recently by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
Reflecting on the partnership with the AMQF through the VAFF project nears completion, Ardaji mentioned that Sweden is pleased with both the cooperation enjoyed with civil society institutions and with the impact of the support it provided for visual art organisations in Palestine. She added that it is unlikely there will be any amendments to the Swedish policy regarding the European Union’s terms and the new funding clause, particularly Article 15.
The meeting also tackled a number of key points about the project specifically and the cultural scene generally.
“Refusing to sign the terms of the agreement with the new clause is based on our rejection of the EU’s definition of terrorism, regardless of whether this clause influences our partners as individuals and their activities. It is a matter of principle for civil society institutions regarding our right to define terrorism.” Touma commented.
Abu Hashash highlighted the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre (KSCC) as an example of an institution that threatened to close before receiving the grant. Today, it is organising one of the the most content rich exhibitions in Palestine. The exhibition profoundly tackles KSCC’s identity and its relationship with artists, artist collectives and the larger community. Thus, it captures intersections with a world preoccupied with creating alternative methods for collaborative and cost-conscious art production.
In turn, Odeh shared concerns on how both teams have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and conditional EU funding.
“Despite the accumulative knowledge and sustainability strategies developed by VAFF’s partners throughout the past two cycles, the lack of sufficient financial resources to sustain operational activities will indeed make it difficult for institutions and partners to implement their programmes and keep their employees. However, it is important to be aware of the changes that emerged in the cultural sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, which cultivated collaboration and synergy between various institutions. That period also saw interdependence and exchange of expertise and capacities, in addition to a growing support of civil society. This led to excellent programming and sustained activity and momentum in cultural work.” Odeh added.
The meeting included a review of the paths that the final evaluation of the project is expected to take. The evaluation will primarily examine the learning process accumulated and developed by the VAFF project during its two cycles. Through this angle, VAFF intends to identify the breakthroughs made by the project in the visual arts scene to develop them further.
Artist Haneen Nazzal will accompany the evaluation team to create illustrations summarising the achievements of each partner. She will produce unconventional infographics which are more accessible to the public to briefly update them on the work processes of VAFF’s partner visual art organisations. Additional material will also be produced to capture what the final evaluation report did not include. For example, VAFF is aiming to collaborate with researcher and reporter Orouba Othman to examine the effects of the grant and its projects on the artists, their lives and artistic practices. Othman will base her observations on a series of interviews with artists who worked with the project partners in the last two years. This depth and creativity are rarely attainable in evaluation reports, and such effects cannot be measured fully through periodic reports. In this evaluation, VAFF seeks to illustrate the scope of its work while maintaining its creative spirit and addressing a wide audience.
The meeting concluded with final remarks on the progress of the project grant and the latest implementation developments. It is worth noting that most grants were extended due to activity restrictions imposed by COVID-19. However, work on this project is still continuing according to plan, currently concluding most of its partnerships and preparing final reports.